Defeated but defiant on the s'terrata gravel roads, former Giro d'Italia leader Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) says he will return to his original plan of fighting for the time trials after losing the maglia rosa.
Unless his defeat on the second category climb of Alpe di Poti is merely a hiccup in his climbing form, the overall classification is no longer possible, Dumoulin recognised. "At least 20 or 30 riders were better than me today, so it makes not sense to go for GC," he said.
"Looking at it now, we're going back to plan A, which was the time trials."
Contenders like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) drove their group as hard as possible to gain as much of an advantage on the Dutchman before Sunday's stage 9 time trial. After his stunning performance at the summit finish of Roccaraso two days ago, suddenly Dumoulin looked to be in trouble on a much shorter, but much steeper and trickier Alpe di Poti.
Dumoulin was dropped very early second category ascent, and while other riders like Mikel Landa (Sky) were initially in trouble, they were able to bridge up to the front group. The Dutch rider, however, slowly but steadily sank out of contention.
The maglia rosa already looked set to go to breakaway rider Gianluca Brambilla (Etixx-Quick Step), given he was 1:56 down on Dumoulin before the stage and held a lead of roughly three minutes on the climb. Dumoulin was isolated on the final climb, although teammate Niklas Arndt was present in the breakaway and able to give him some backing on the final kilometres after the climb.
After a breakneck descent where he limited much of the gap that had been opened on the climb, Dumoulin finished 38th on the stage and 1:10 down on Valverde. He weaved past reporters, grabbing a drink from his team soigneur, then pedalling steadily ahead and not stopping to take questions.
But at the team bus, once he had rested a little, Dumoulin talked in detail to the press about what had happened and his plans for the rest of the Giro d'Italia.
Having raised his hopes for a possible GC bid after a surprisingly strong ascent to Roccaraso on stage 6, suddenly the boot was on the other foot and Dumoulin was forced to admit defeat on terrain where, given the shortness of the stage 8 climb, it had been expected that he would come through without too many problems.
The issue had not been illness or injury, simply that his climbing legs were not there and he had had what he described as "a bad day". Now, he said, he would have to target the time trials, but perhaps, he said, feeling less optimistic about his chances than before.
"Looking at it now, we're going back to Plan A," Dumoulin said "and that was winning the time trials. Right now I'm just disappointed."
Apart from having, as he put it, "a bad day", Dumoulin revealed he had had a small saddle sore for the last few days and that he had not been feeling at his best since stage seven. Stage 8 had not been any different, just that on the final climb he had had "no energy."
However, the GC was not totally ruled out, Dumouin said, nor yet battling for the stage win in Chianti. "Maybe it was just one bad day. Really I can't say right now, I'm just feeling weak from today. If I have the same legs as today [Saturday], I'm not going to win it, but I hope to recover well."
More on this story...
- Giro d'Italia stage 8: Quotes from the finish line
- Giro d'Italia: Stage 8 video highlights
- Dumoulin defeated, drops out of Giro d'Italia contention
- Nibali to the fore as Giro d'Italia takes on new complexion
- Giro d'Italia: Brambilla's plan comes together on dusty road to Arezzo
- Valverde strikes first blow in 2016 Giro d'Italia on Tuscany climb